The dependably dysfunctional Italian government turned in another epic howler this week as the Senate passed a motion that could result in the banning of all online gambling for a 12-month period. The motion, which was proposed by the Lega Nord party in an apparent bid to minimize the harm caused by gambling addiction, called for a year-long ban on video lottery terminal (VLT) and amusement with prizes (AWP) gaming in public places, as well as a moratorium on issuing any more online gambling licenses and the suspension of activities by the 200-odd licensed online gambling firms already operating in the country.
News of the motion’s passage was originally brought to light by DLA Piper attorney Giulio Coraggio, who found Lega Nord’s proposal sufficiently daffy to include the phrase “Is it a joke?” in the title of Thursday’s blog post. Italy’s finance ministry has since declared the motion unworkable, given that the licensed online firms currently doing business in the country have made significant investments based on their belief that the nine-year terms of their Italian licenses would, you know, be honored. These operators would be well within their rights to sue Italy for compensation, which they would most assuredly be awarded.
Furthermore, an effective ban on all gambling in Italy would deprive the already cash-strapped state of billions of euros in sorely needed tax revenue. Italy’s economy is projected to shrink another 2% in 2013 and youth unemployment is closing in on 40%. How dysfunctional is the Italian economy? Consider that last month, the owner of an electronics components factory in the city of Modena used his employees’ two-week summer holiday to secretly move the entire factory to Poland. As the owner of the 50-year-old family business told an Italian radio station, his decision to get out of Dodge was a frustrated response to the country’s high taxes and red tape: “I had three options: either close, move the factory … or shoot myself in the head.” Unlike Italian politicians, shooting himself in the foot was apparently not an option.
It seem the Senators from other parties that voted for the motion were under the impression that Lega Nord was merely seeking to put the brakes on the issuance of any further online gambling licenses. This is perhaps even more worrisome, given that it suggests Italian politicians don’t even have aides that read legislation before giving their bosses the CliffsNotes to help them decide how they should vote. Fortunately, the head of the Lega Nord party has gone public with full details on his party’s future motions…